From Social to Sale: The Effects of Firm-Generated Content in Social Media on Customer Behavior

Ashish Kumar, Ram Bezawada, Rishika Rishika, Ramkumar Janakiraman, and P.K. Kannan
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Key Takeaways
Social media marketing shoiuld be used in tandem with traditional media marketing and digital marketing. Social media should be used to nurture and strengthen brand connections.

Firm-initiated marketing communications in the firm’s official social media pages positively affects important marketing metrics such as customer spending, cross-buying, and customer profitability.

There are synergistic effects of FGC on customers’ in-store (offline) purchase behavior. The synergistic effect between FGC and e-mail marketing is higher than that between FGC and television advertising.

We investigate the effects of firm-generated content (FGC) in social media on customer behavior. We find that FGC has a significant, positive effect on customers’ spending, cross-buying, and profitability. We also find FGC has synergistic effect with traditional (e.g., TV Ad) and digital media (e.g., e-mail).

​ "Our study suggests a synergistic relationship between social and other media used for marketing communications—television and e-mails. As social media gains importance, managers must take care to not abandon other forms of advertising as television and email marketing.”              

“The return on investment in ‘social CRM’ is determined not only by a firm’s investment in social media but also by consumers’ level of engagement with the firms’ social media page. Therefore, customer engagement in firm's social media sites is very important for 'social CRM' to be effective.”​​


With the dramatic change in the media landscape in recent years, firms have embraced social media as a means to engage with their customers. However, at the same time, marketing managers are concerned about measuring the returns on investment from social media. In this study, we examine the effect of social media engagement on customer purchase behavior by studying the effect of firm generated content in its official social media pages on three key customer metrics: customer spending, cross-buying and customer profitability.


We use micro-level customer data compiled from multiple sources: social media participation data, transaction data, and survey data.  Leveraging this unique data set, we study the effect of customer engagement via social media on three customer metrics: spending, cross-buying and profitability. We build our arguments regarding the positive effects of FGC on customer behaviors using extant literature on multichannel marketing, integrated marketing communications (IMC), and digital marketing and take an empirical approach using methods such as difference-in-differences (DID) and treatment effect (TE) models.​


We find that after controlling for the main effects of television advertising and e-mail marketing and after ruling out the issue of customer self-selection, firm-generated content (FGC) has a positive and significant effect on customer spending, cross buying and customer profitability. We further find that FGC works synergistically with both television advertising and email marketing. However this synergistic effect is higher for email marketing. Our results also suggest that the effect of FGC is greater for more experienced, technologically-savvy and more social-network prone customers.

Firm-generated content through social media can positively affect customer spending, cross-buying and customer profitability. FGC works synergistically with traditional and digital media and has the maximum impact on customers who are loyal, tech savvy, and prone to using social networks.​


Social media platforms have become an effective tool for firms to create connectivity with their customers. However, it is only through communication that they can create a meaningful relationship with customers. Therefore, firm generated content (FGC) in social media is crucial in nurturing this relationship. Furthermore, in this online social media environment, the role of traditional and other digital media cannot be undermined, as they have synergistic effects with FGC. The results from this study are applicable to both small as well large firms that use social media marketing.

​​Full Article:

Ashish Kumar, Ram Bezawada, Rishika Rishika, Ramkumar Janakiraman, and P.K. Kannan (2016), "From Social to Sale: The Effects of Firm-Generated Content in Social Media on Customer Behavior," Journal of Marketing, 80 (1), 7-25


Ashish Kumar is Assistant Professor of Marketing, School of Business, Aalto University (e-mail:

Ram Bezawada is Visiting Associate Professor, Indian School of Business, and Associate Professor of Marketing, School of Management, State University of New York, Buffalo (e-mail:

Rishika Rishika is Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina (

Ramkumar Janakiraman is Associate Professor of Marketing and Business Partnership Foundation Research Fellow, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina (e-mail:

​P.K. Kannan is Ralph J. Tyser Professor of Marketing Science, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland (


Author Bio:

Ashish Kumar, Ram Bezawada, Rishika Rishika, Ramkumar Janakiraman, and P.K. Kannan
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